Five members of an Israeli family — including both parents and an infant — living in the northern West Bank settlement of Itamar, not far from Nablus, were brutally murdered in their home on Friday night.
The bodies were discovered when their 12-year-old daughter returned home. Two boys (ages 2 and 6) may have survived, according to unclear Israeli media reports in English.
The northern West Bank was put under lock-down.
All top Israeli officials have called for condemnation of this heinous crime, and said it must be punished and revenged.
Revenge has been and is being carried out against Palestinians.
But, so far, little to no proof of any Palestinian involvement has emerged.
There are footprints, reportedly, leading from a point where the Itamar security system was apparently breached … to the Palestinian village of Awarta.
UPDATE: By March 16, no one — not even a Palestinian — had been charged with the murder, despite intensive Israeli investigations. Awarta is still under lock-down. Thai workers who live in Itamar were reportedly rounded up for interrogation, and there were strong rumors that one of them, who had worked for the family and who was owed 10,000 or 20,000 shekels, was suspected, but there are still no charges against anyone…. At least one Israeli report indicated that the house was still locked from the inside when the murders were discovered. Everybody who was asked and even those who were not asked had dutifully and also sincerely denounced the murders. But those who believe that it was an act of terror committed by Palestinians, well, they still believe it. (See comment below). And, reprisals by settlers against Palestinians are continuing…
UPDATE TWO: The IDF lifted the lock-down on Awarta on Wednesday, more than five days after it began. Reports now indicate that some 40 residents are still being detained.
UPDATE THREE: The Board of the Foreign Press Association (FPA) in Israel has issued a statement saying that it “is deeply disturbed that Israeli officials are once again accusing the international media of being biased against Israel. In the latest instance, officials attending a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday dredged up ancient and unfounded conspiracy theories about an 11-year-old case [the death of Muhammad al-Durra, killed while crouching beside his father beside a concrete block in a hail of gunfire in Gaza] and without providing any evidence, tried to equate it to coverage of the weekend knife attack in Itamar. We strongly urge Israeli officials to refrain from making unsubstantiated blanket statements against the international media — a diverse group of hundreds of journalists from around the world — and encourage parliament to seek out more credible witnesses in the future”…
The FPA statement is apparently a reference to remarks made at a Knesset committee on (Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs) this week by Danny Seaman, who served for ten years as head of the Israeli Government Press Office and who is now the Deputy Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Information. The Knesset Committee Chairperson, Danny Danon of Likud, reportedly said — according to an account apparently compiled by the Committee spokesperson — that a court battle concerning the film footage of the Gaza gunbattle between the IDF and Palestinian policemen, pursued by French Jewish businessman Philippe Karsenty (now running for the French Parliament, who was present and who was one of those addressing the Knesset hearing this week) “succeeded in proving provocation and conspiracy by foreign journalists. ‘Our enemies have no problem using unacceptable and dishonest means to attack us, so that cases like this where it is possible to reveal the truth are very important for the battle over the legitimacy of the State of Israel’. Danny Seaman, who said he became convinced after his own lengthy investigation that the video footage of the shoot-out in Gaza had been at least in part staged, and who has previously spoken publicly about this in various fora for several years, told the Knesset Committee that he now also believes “there is a direct link between the position taken by the French media on the Muhammad al-Durrah incident that seeks to represent Israel as murderers of children, and their failure to cover the terrible massacre in Itamar”.
From here, it is hard to see that there was any lack of coverage of the murders of five members of the Fogel family in Itamar (much less that this is due to French television’s report on the death of Muhammad al-Durra — though Karsenty has even questioned whether or not the Palestinian child’s death was faked as well). However, it is true that the top news worldwide in the past week has been the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, followed by continuing events in Libya and Bahrain.
Meanwhile, no Israeli government official has yet said explicitly that Palestinians committed the murders in Itamar, either, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has demanded that the Palestinian Authority leadership must explicitly condemn the killings — and must also end what he said was a “campaign of incitement” against Israel…
However, an Israeli friend of mine — yes, a friend — called at 9:20 Saturday morning, screaming at me: “You say you hate the checkpoints, you say you hate the Wall, but look what happens, look what these animals do! They murdered a family, including a baby — a baby! The checkpoint was just taken down, and the next thing is that a family is murdered. They would murder all of us if they could. A map was found in the house with only Arab names and places — and no reference to Israel!”.
Look, I said, I don’t know anything about this attack, but I will always hate checkpoints and The Wall, and I continue to point out that the Wall is not finished and is permeable in a number of spots if some determined terrorist really wanted to get through.
As to the map, you can buy them in any bookshop in East Jerusalem, and I have one somewhere on my shelves, because it’s the only way to locate Palestinian places in Israel which may or may not still exist, but their names are never mentioned on any Israeli map…
Some pictures showing the dead victims can be seen here: here. This link was sent to me by email from a group called “Jaffa Strategies”… The email said that “These photos were released by the family. They have given full permission for their use and they to ask you to report on the horrific reality of murdering children and babies in their sleep, simply because they are Jewish”.
So, here we have an assertion not only of who committed the crime, but also of the precise motive.
The same email contained this compilation which it said was “from reports”: “On Friday night at 10:30 pm the terrorists entered the house through the living room picture window, did not notice the 6-year-old boy sleeping on the couch and continued on to the bedroom where they slashed the throats of the father and newborn baby who were sleeping there. The mother came out of the bathroom and was stabbed on its threshold. The evidence shows that she tried to fight the terrorists. They then slashed the throat of the 11-year old-son who was reading in bed. They did not notice the 2-year old asleep in his bed, but murdered the 3-year old with two stabs to his heart. After that, they locked the door, exited through the window and escaped. Two hours after the infiltration, there was another warning signal from the same spot on the fence, as the terrorists left the way they had come. Once again, the patrol did not identify the source of the signal as infiltration. The 12-year-old daughter returned home at 00:30 and found the door locked. She asked a neighbor to help her. He brought a weapon with him once he noticed tracks and mud near the house. The two woke up the 6-year old sleeping in the living room by calling through the window and when he opened the door, he returned to his home. When she entered the bedrooms, the young daughter saw the horrific bloodsoaked scene and ran out of the house screaming. The neighbor ran back and fired several shots in the air to alert security personnel. Within a short time, large police and IDF forces arrived and began intensive searches to see if the terrorists were still in the community. At 03:30 a.m., military trackers discovered footprints leading to the Arab village of Avrata [Awarta]“…
At the start of the weekly meeting of the Israeli cabinet today, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said: “Last night I spoke with Chaim Fogel and with Rabbi Yehuda Ben-Yishai, the fathers of Udi and Ruthie Fogel, respectively, may their memories be blessed. I came to console them and I heard the crying of their young grandchildren who survived. And this is what they told me: Mr. Prime Minister, may God give you the strength, understanding, wisdom and bravery to defend the Israeli people, all of Israel’s citizens, at this time. Today, the Government will be briefed by IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz and the Deputy Director of the ISA about the chain of events regarding the murder, about the actions being taken to apprehend the murderers and about other matters that are occurring on the ground. We will also be briefed about the incitement being carried on within the Palestinian Territories, in the schools, mosques and official PA media. We are witnessing hair-raising things. For example, we know that there is supposed to be a soccer game there in memory of a suicide terrorist who murdered and wounded dozens of people on Jaffa Road, in Jerusalem. Regrettably, we see the PA awarding scholarships to the families of murderers. We see that they name squares after terrorists who murdered dozens of Israelis. These do not jibe with education for peace. I spoke with Abu Mazen last night. He called to express his sorrow over the event. I told him that we expect much more unequivocal condemnations but even more than that, we want to see unequivocal action by the PA to stop allowing this incitement, that it stop leading this incitement. We think that educating people toward peace is an integral part of peace. We also intend to raise this issue in the international sphere, as one of the necessary building blocks of peace”.
The IDF website reports here that “The IDF and Israel Police have been undertaking widespread searches in and around the Itamar community since one or more terrorists murdered five members of a resident family in their home. On Friday night (Mar. 11), at approximately 22:00, the terrorists broke into the community, located southeast of Nablus, entering the family’s home and stabbing its sleeping members to death. The family’s two parents were killed along with three of their children. The family’s 12-year-old daughter managed to help her six-year-old and two-year-old brothers escape, after which they called for help. The victims were identified as Udi Fogel (36.5), his wife Ruth (35) and children Yoav (11), Elad (4) and Hadas (three months). The five will be buried on Sunday afternoon (Mar. 13) in Jerusalem. After the report of the attack, IDF forces and Israel Police sprang to the scene, the two beginning various, widespread searches in the community and surrounding areas. Over the course of the night, the Chief of General Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi arrived as well. Thus far, searches have uncovered that the terrorist or terrorists were able to pass through the community’s gate without triggering its alert system”.
The Jerusalem Post reported here that “Defense Minister Ehud Barak told mourners that the terrorist attack that left five family members dead in the settlement of Itamar over the weekend is a ‘painful reminder of the unbearable bloody price that we must pay in the struggle for sovereignty and rebirth of Israel in its land’. Speaking at a ceremony at Mt. Herzl for fallen soldiers whose resting places are unknown, the defense minister said he is confident that the ‘iron fist of the IDF and the Israel Security Agency will quickly land on the murderers’. They will be caught and brought to justice and made to pay, he added”.
At the funeral for the victims in Jerusalem on Sunday afternoon, Haaretz reported here, “Vice Premier and Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon spoke during the funeral, saying the Itamar terror attack highlights an existential threat to Israel. ‘This murder reminds everyone that the struggle and conflict is not about Israel’s borders or about independence of a repressed nation but a struggle for our existence. Therefore, we cannot continue speaking about security while the essence is neglected – the essence which is Israel’s right to its land’, said Yaalon. ‘Whoever gives up this right won’t have security either. In this difficult hour we must rise from the rubble and do the most natural thing – continue building and developing Israel’, Yaalon continued”.
The Haaretz blog/column Mess Report noted today here that “The Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces are capable enough of following leads and showing quick results that will help calm tensions. Reports that responsibility for the attack was claimed yesterday by the ‘Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Imad Mughniyeh Group’ are ‘nonsense’, according to a senior [Israeli] officer in the area”.
Palestinian journalists also dismiss the claims by the “Imad Mughniyeh” group, which they say is a fictitious group of unknown composition that no one has ever seen, and that makes such statements claiming responsibility after every attack or injury, without any basis.
As to the claims of Hamas handing out candy in the southern Gaza Strip, one Palestinian photo-journalist said he saw one photo of one man handing out candy to one Palestinian taxi driver in his car in Gaza, which does not a phenomenon make….
An official Hamas statement from Gaza reportedly said they had no part in this.
The Haaretz blog/column Mess report also noted that “The attack’s immediate ramifications will be felt on the ground. The West Bank already faced similar dangers of escalation last August, when four residents of the settlement of Beit Hagai near Hebron were murdered in a drive-by shooting by Hamas. At the time, considerable efforts were made, including by the settler leadership, to prevent the situation from escalating into mutual acts of revenge. This time, the danger is much greater. The murderers struck at the heart of the constellation of settlements in the northern West Bank – the most ideologically committed areas in the eyes of the settlers. The photographs of blood strewn across the children’s bedrooms will have a powerful sentimental effect. The response could exceed the usual ‘price tag’ acts, which feature rioting in Palestinian villages and vandalism. It could deteriorate into terrorism by Jewish extremists”.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian village of Awarta, which is the nearest to the Israeli settlement of Itamar, is reportedly under “full seige”, with houses still being searched, and some 34 Palestinians taken away for questioning at the Huwwarah Israeli military base.
And, as Haaretz reported “The ministerial committee on settlement affairs decided Saturday night to approve the construction of hundreds of housing units in several West Bank settlements, a move that came in response to a deadly attack on a family of five in the settlement of Itamar on Friday. The approval of further settlement building follows several long months wherein no construction was approved. The move involves measured construction of several hundred housing units within settlement blocs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak took part in the meeting on Saturday night. During the discussion, several alternatives to further settlement building were discussed, such as starting a new settlement, or widening the settlement of Itamar but the end the decision, supported by Barak, was to continue construction in settlement blocs.